Once again, Tiger Woods's loss is Rory McIlroy’s gain.
The Northern Ireland star began his ascent to fame after Woods’s spectacular fall from grace five years ago, and McIlroy is once again poised to dominate the PGA as the new odds on favorite to win the 2014 Masters.
Based off odds compiled by Bovada.lv since Woods pulled out with a back injury, McIlroy is now a 7/1 favorite, followed by defending champion Adam Scott (9/1), three-time green jacket recipient Phil Mickelson (12/1) and injured No. 4 ranked Jason Day (14/1).
The 38-year-old Woods announced he would sit out the upcoming Augusta tournament, opting instead for surgery to repair a pinched nerve in his back. Injuries to his left knee, back and both his Achilles tendons have plagued Woods for the better part of six years, and it remains to be seen if he can re-discover the form that won 14 majors in the first 10 years of his professional career.
Never finishing higher than 15th at the Masters, McIlroy is seeking his first major title since 2012 when he took the PGA Championship. Last year his 79 in the third round cost McIlroy an outside chance at the Masters and he wound up with a plus-2 290. He would later bounce back with an eighth place finish at the PGA Championship, and he was especially impressive with two top 10 finishes in the European tour earlier this year.
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Woods isn’t the only banged up star, with both Mickelson and Day presently on the mend. That puts three of the top five players in the world in doubt before one of the PGA’s most prestigious tournaments.
Mickelson was forced to pull out of the final round of the Valero Texas Open last weekend due to an unspecified injury to his side. Other than a second place finish in Abu Dhabi, Mickelson has had a typical up and down year with zero top 10 finishes.
Day hasn’t hit the links since he was victorious in February’s WGC Accenture Match, as he’s healing up the injured left thumb that forced him to withdraw from the WGC-Cadillac Championships in early March. At the time the withdrawal was seen as a move to specifically rest for Augusta, a course Day has nearly tamed twice before. In 201, he ended in a tie for second with Scott after shooting an impressive -12, and he finished in third behind Scott and Angel Cabrera last year with a -7. According to Golf Channel, Day recently started hitting balls again, albeit in a limited fashion.
Then there’s Scott, who stands to become the first player since Woods to win the Masters in back-to-back years. Scott bounced back from a plus-five showing at the WGC-Cadillac by finishing third at Bay Hill two weeks ago with a -11. Currently No. 2 behind Woods in the world rankings, Scott also has three top 10 finishes and has made five cuts this season.
Early Prediction: Steve Stricker. The dark horse has never won a major, and in fact his best finish was second place in the PGA Championship way back in 1998 and his best at Augusta was sixth in 2009. But the American is ranked No. 15 in the world and he’s healthy in a field of rather wounded stars.